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Lead Paint Removal From Bridges; No Containment Structures Required!

Featured image licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The Bayonne Bridge, Connecting Bayonne, NJ to Staten Island, NY.

The Bayonne Bridge, Connecting Bayonne, NJ to Staten Island, NY.

Recent regulations and more effective enforcement activities have made the once-simple task of removing lead-based paints a dominant cost component in bridge maintenance activities. Faced with the competing demands of shrinking budgets and higher costs to comply with expanding environmental and occupational safety requirements, major transportation authorities have had to seriously reexamine the methods they use to maintain their facilities.

In what is going to be an ongoing project, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has decided to take on the challenge of removing lead-based paint from several bridges in the New York City area. Deciding what removal methods to use required careful evaluation of feasibility, time constraints, volume of hazardous waste generated, and cleanliness of the process in terms of worker exposure, compliance with environmental standards, and quality of the resultant surface preparation.

The Port Authority wished to comply with environmental discharge limits without using costly containment structures. After examining their options, they elected to see a demonstration of how Pentek’s dustless power tool system works for one-step removal, containment, collection, and packaging of hazardous lead-based paints. The equipment was demonstrated by Pentek earlier this year on the Goethals Bridge which connects Staten Island to New Jersey. After evaluating the results, the Port Authority decided to purchase two Model 9A VAC-PACs® and several Corner-Cutters® to do the job.

Currently the Port Authority is using the Pentek equipment on two other major structures: the Bayonne Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel Roadway Overpass.

Paint is being removed from the Bayonne Bridge’s high arches. The Corner-Cutter® operators are working on steel from bridge deck to the arch height of 110 feet in the air, while the VAC-PAC® is conveniently located on the bridge deck.

At the Lincoln Tunnel which connects New Jersey to Manhattan, the operators are removing paint from the top of the New Jersey side overpass down to the tunnel portals, at heights of 20 to 55 ft.

Because these facilities handle extensive daily commuter traffic, methods to control hazardous materials had to be considered carefully. On such large, elevated structures, a containment tent would be very difficult to use in terms of how and where to build the enclosure and what to do with the traffic that constantly flows through these major arteries. With the Pentek system of lead-paint removal, no containment structure is needed, allowing for a greater amount of freedom for the operators.

“We wanted to comply environmentally with lead-based paint removal without harm to the workers who are using the equipment six to seven hours a day,” responds Richard Peck, Maintenance Unit Supervisor for the Port Authority. “During operations, we’ve had Risk Management test exhaust air as well as the personnel air monitors.”

Risk Management is the internal environmental services division handling environmental concerns within the Port Authority. Their responsibility for this project has been to follow OSHA regulations for handling lead-based paint by conducting air monitoring for lead when workers may be exposed during operation of the equipment. In results of the monitoring tests, lead levels were found to be well below OSHA limits. According to Peck, “the equipment fared very well in the tests. We are pleased with the operation.”

The equipment will probably be used throughout the winter to remove lead on other bridges in the area. According to Patrick Heron, General Maintenance Supervisor for the Port Authority, “we are very satisfied with the equipment, especially the VAC-PAC® which has performed the way we hoped it would. Because no external containment structure is needed and because the system provides dustless decontamination, Pentek s system gives us the flexibility we need.”

For more information please email us, see our contact page or visit our vacuum tool and robotics product pages.

Reprinted from Pentek Ink, Vol 7

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